Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How far is the East from the West?

[cross-posted on my xanga]

Lately I am reminded of how gracious God is, and how much we fall short of the mark. For four years in college I was extremely active in my campus Christian fellowship, so that I'm almost certain that the number of hours I spent in fellowship, evangelism, and bible study was equivalent to (if not more than) the amount of time I spent on schoolwork. We forged friendships that were supposed to be good for a lifetime, and then some. And as far as friends go, I owe to my college fellowship some of the best friends I have had.

But as Christians, we're not just supposed to be there for our dearest friends. We are supposed to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, the poor and the disenfranchised, the widows and orphans. Easy, right?

We are also called to love those who suffer from mental illness. We are to love those that we don't know how to deal with because they are struggling with questions of how to be Christian and transgendered. We are to love those who are trying to figure out how to be Christian and gay. In the past year I've had three different friends approach me with these issues. And they have indicated in various ways the belief that our Christian friends from college would not be or have not been supportive.

This is how we lose people. It's not necessarily that we push them away; we just fail to bring them in. Because they're not extroverted, successful, funny. Because they're sometimes awkward or moody. Because they question their identity in ways that we don't understand or have decided are wrong. Because they don't nod their heads in agreement with every word the preacher proclaims True. Because their political opinions differ from ours. Because they don't fit the mold.

When we respond with instant judgment, disapproval or even disdain, it's easier for them to decide that perhaps Christianity is not for them. And we are happy to let them go, because it's so much easier than having to deal with the questions.

It breaks His heart.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Glorious tedium

So far it has been a glorious, work-filled weekend. Although writing is an enjoyable task, revising, proofing, and cleaning up references are not. To me, these activities are the opposite of fun. I look forward to a future in which word processing software automatically pulls references from the interspace and attaches them to in-line citations it extracts from reading my mind. Until then, here's to Endnote--combination friend and foe.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Doin' stuff, learning things.

This week has been awesome because I forced my class to edit Wikipedia as one of their assignments, and they did because it was required. I wasn't sure how it would work out, whether or not they would get things working, whether it would be worthwhile. But most of them completed all the activities, and despite some initial deletions of articles they had created, I think my students found the experience to be a good one. There were many comments about how they didn't realize how easy it was to edit Wikipedia. And of course, before I forced myself to try so that I could compel them to do so, I didn't know how easy it was either. In general I am in favor of learning activities in which the learner is challenged to try new things. It's great fun to watch and to see them learn.

Gherkins, Baby

Gherkins, Baby
Originally uploaded by Kevin Lawver.
Oh, yeah. The funny thing is that I made up the phrase 'Workin' like a gherkin'", and I frequently ask Alex if he's been workin' like agherkin. Or if I have been persistent in reading, writing, class prep, etc. I will proclaim to him that I have been workin' like a gherkin. It has probably been about a year or so since I started spouting this nonsense. But the other day, I decided to look "gherkin" up on the Internet. I'm not sure how I got the spelling right, but, LO AND BEHOLD! A gherkin is a cucumber. So all this time I've been working like a cucumber. Which obviously means that cucumbers work pretty hard.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Workin' like a gherkin

I'm not sure how I inadvertently turned our blog (well, mostly my blog) into a food blog. It was unintentional, but probably related to the fact that it's pretty easy to blog stuff based on photographs, and I tend to take pictures of food. Also, I'll blame Cathy at My Epikorean for getting me all excited about her decision to food blog.

Anyway, completely unrelated to food (?), we the residents of Apartment C have been pretty on-task all day. Allowing time for meals and bathroom breaks and the occasional venture off-task to Wikipedia or YouTube, it ended up being some 12 or 13 hours of straight-up MENTAL LABOR. I was hoping for 15, because then I think someone should publish a book with the title, Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Hours a Day. Because, you know, writing your dissertation in 15 minutes a day is for the weak. Or, alternatively, for the disciplined and well-organized.

Nevertheless, I think we are both seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, a tunnel which has been twisty and windy and included trails off the path now and then. Still, (I think) I can't wait to get out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Where can I get some tran fats? Nowhere, according to US labeling

I had a revelation at the drug store as I was checking out a package of ethnic-looking cookies at CVS's "food" section. I have never seen Nutrition Information claiming a product to contain trans fat.

When I first heard that food manufacturers would need to start labeling the amount of trans fat in their products, I was thrilled. When the new labels started to appear a year or two ago (though not legally required in the U.S. until January 1st, 2008) I was surprised to find that a number of products I had assumed to contain trans fat (due to their listing of partially hydrogenated oils in their list of ingredients) claimed to have none. Then I learned that food companies were allowed to round down. If the amount of trans fat per serving was less than 0.5 grams, they could label the amount as 0 (while having to advertise as NO TRANS FATS per serving). I thought this was sort of a cheap play, to allow rounding in such a manner (0.49 grams/serving could get away with 0).

According to the FDA (according to Wikipedia), the average American consumes 5.8 grams of trans fat per day (2.6% of calories.) But I bet if you added up the number of grams of trans fat on the labels of everything the average American consumes, you will get a big fat zero. The labeling requirements in Canada allow products with less than 0.2g of trans fat per serving to advertise 0/serving.

Upon realizing that I have never seen anything above 0, it made me wonder whether companies have dropped the amount of hydrogenated oils in their recipes, or whether it has always been the case that labeling the amount of trans fat per serving would always allow it to appear as though there are none. Which makes me wonder what you have to eat in order to see any Nutrition Info change. Because it would be funny if we forced everyone to change their labeling, just so that everyone could label the amount of trans fat as 0.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Utilitarian Eats - Veggie Patties

don lee veggie patties I like to spend time preparing meals that are appealing not only taste-wise, but aesthetically as well. But I've been busy (as perhaps is evident by the infrequent blog posts), and sometimes you just eat to live instead of living to eat. I packed lunch to bring to campus today, as I often do. After meals consisting of Powerbars or other similar energy-dense food, this is probably my next most utilitarian meal: two veggie patties.

Mom and dad drove up to LA to have dinner with us last night, and they brought with them a box of Costco-purchased Don Lee Veggie Patties. They're pretty good -- not really the sort of veggie burger stuff I am used to (usually primarily soy-based and attempting to look and feel like meat). Rather, it looks like a mash of carrots, celery, onion, and hash browns with some sunflower seeds mixed in. They came fresh, not frozen. The flavor is quite decent. After microwaving them for a minute in my tupperware-esque container, I mashed it up with a spoon so that it would look more like a meal.

I think the two mashed-up veggie patties are not as efficient eats as protein bars. I think a major advantage of a protein or other energy bar is that they require no preparation whatsoever besides unwrapping the bar. I actually had to put the veggie patties into the tupperware container this morning, and remember to pack a utensil of some sort. The protein bars, however, you can unwrap and instantly eat on the go. You just bite pieces off -- there's no need for a fork or a spoon.

How much longer must we wait for the meals in a pill that we were promised by the Jetsons?